Contact 6: Avoiding falling victim to a Ponzi scheme

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The president of an investment firm is behind bars after lying to investors and stealing nearly $8 million. FOX6's Contact 6 has information for consumers on how to avoid getting caught up in a Ponzi scheme.

"He took the clients that he built up over 25 years and started selling fictitious loans and overselling loans," U.S. Postal Inspector Amy Kerkoff said.

Postal inspectors say dozens of investors were duped by an investment firm that tricked them into believing they were funding development projects.

The problem? The deals don't exist.

Instead, the president of the firm used the money to pay off other investors whose money he had already stolen -- a typical Ponzi scheme.

"He had a fleet of cars for his business. He spent a month in Hawaii with 20 family and friends and footed the bill for that and he sponsored hydroplane races," Kerkoff said.

Postal inspectors say some victims were left with nothing.

"Ultimately, they have lost everything. They`ve lost their life savings and retirement. Many of them are older and will have a hard time recovering those funds," Kerkoff said.

Inspectors say there were red flags -- like important paperwork was never received.

"They get too comfortable and didn`t follow up. Do your homework and make sure you get everything linked to your investment," Kerkoff said.

Often, one of the first signs of a Ponzi scheme is the promise of unusually high returns. Additionally, con artists can fake the paperwork, so FOX6's Contact 6 advises checking out the actual investment to make sure it's real.